Over the past decade Apple’s success with the iPhone and iPad has led to a problem. Its something long-time Mac users often complain about – that macOS no longer seems to have a vibrant developer community supporting it.
Now Apple is trying to do something about that through Project Catalyst; an initiative to help developers port iOS apps to the Mac with a focus on iPad software. Here’s what we know.
The development of Project Catalyst makes more sense when you think about the announcement during WWDC about the creation of iPadOS. One of the early criticisms of the first iPads was that they were little more than stretched out iPhones or iPods.
But over the last few years they have evolved into a useful, albeit somewhat limited, computing platform. The iPad supports multiple screen sizes and resolutions and, with iPadOS, lets you use a pointing device too.
So, in theory, as developers start to take advantage of iPadOS as a separate platform, it makes sense that the same apps could work on macOS.
Apple isn’t creating a way for developers to run iPadOS and iOS apps on a Mac through emulation. What they’re doing is allowing developers to use the same Xcode project to build apps for both its mobile and traditional computing platforms.
There’s a detailed look at how this will happen at Are Technica that’s well worth a read if you’re a developer looking at being able to port apps between Apple platforms.
Interestingly, it should be possible to move most of a functioning iPadOS to the Mac with relative ease. You won’t get the entire app over in one fell swoop – there are design elements that don’t exist in iPadOS that you’ll need to create in macOS and there are parts of iPadOS that don’t have a macOS counterpart – but it should make the task of maintaining a single codebase for multiple platforms a lot easier.
The article I referred to has quotes from a number of developers who have used Catalyst to port various applications including Twitter, TripIt and a game called Asphalt 9: Legends. Apple has been using Catalyst to port its own apps for a while with Voice Memos, News, Home, and Stocks on the Mac sharing their codebase with the iOS versions of the apps.
If you’re an iOS developer today, Catalyst offers some interesting possibilities.